METASTATIC BREAST CANCER TERMS
Advanced breast cancer
Advanced breast cancer usually refers to metastatic breast cancer (also called Stage IV breast cancer). Breast cancer that has spread locally within the area of the breast, but not to distant organs and tissues, is often referred to as ‘locally advanced breast cancer’ (or Stage III breast cancer)1-5.
A low number of red blood cells. May lead to feelings of tiredness, weakness or breathlessness6.
A treatment to stop or slow the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors. Works by blocking the body’s ability to produce hormones or by interfering with hormone action. Also called endocrine therapy or hormonal therapy5.
Removal of a sample of tissue for examination and further testing3,5.
Also known as bone hardening or bone strengthening treatment. These are drugs to slow or prevent bone damage. They also reduce calcium levels5.
A treatment that uses (anti-cancer) drugs to either stop cancer cells from dividing, growing and spreading, or kills them8. Sometimes shortened to ‘chemo’.
Complete blood count
A blood test to determine the quantity of each type of blood cell within a sample of blood5. Also known as a blood cell count5.
Short for ‘computed tomography scan’. Uses a series of X-rays to create a detailed picture of areas inside the body5. You may be given a dye (either to swallow or as an injection) to help the tissues and organs show up more clearly5.
Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor (CDK inhibitor)
A CDK 4/6 inhibitor is a type of treatment that works to put the brakes on cell growth and division by blocking the action of proteins called CDK 4 and CDK 67.
Early breast cancer
Breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast or the axillary (armpit) lymph nodes3.
A treatment to stop or slow the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors. Works by blocking the body’s ability to produce hormones or interfering with hormone action. Also called anti-hormonal therapy or hormone therapy5.
One of the two female sex hormones (the other is progesterone). Estrogen acts in the body through the estrogen receptor located inside the cells of the body5.
Abbreviation of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. HER2 is a protein involved in normal cell growth. Some breast cancer cells contain many more HER2 receptors than normal cells. This is called being HER2 positive (HER2+). If your cancer does not have HER2 it is called HER2-negative (HER2-)5.
Hormone receptor (HR)
A protein in your cells that binds to a specific hormone (estrogen or progesterone). Once the hormone has bound to its receptor, various changes take place in the cell. If your cancer grows in response to the hormone estrogen, your cancer could also be called estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive or ER+). If your cancer grows in response to the hormone progesterone, it could be called progesterone receptor-positive (PR-positive or PR+)5.
Small organs in your body which can become inﬂamed or enlarged, indicating that cancer has spread.5 They can be important for assessing the stage of your cancer.
Tumors that occur when cancer spreads beyond where it first started in the body. For example, when breast cancer spreads from the breast to the bone it is said to have metastasized and tumors in the bone are referred to as bone metastases5.
Metastatic breast cancer
This is cancer that has spread beyond the breast to another part of the body. It may also be referred to as secondary breast cancer, stage IV (or Stage 4) breast cancer or advanced breast cancer1,3,5.
Abbreviation of ‘magnetic resonance imaging’ scan. Uses radiation and a powerful magnet to create detailed pictures of organs inside the body5.
Abbreviation of ‘positron emission tomography’ scan. A small amount of radioactive liquid is injected into a vein and a scanner then takes a detailed picture that can be used when looking for abnormalities in the body5.
A female hormone3. Progesterone acts in the body through the progesterone receptor located inside the cells of the body5.
When tumors increase in size and/or the cancer spreads within the body it is said to have progressed5.
The use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Also called radiation therapy5.
When cancer returns after some time during which no cancer could be detected. If this happens, it may occur months or years after the initial treatment. Cancer may recur where it ﬁrst appeared or elsewhere in the body5.
When cancer returns after a period of improvement5.
When tumors shrink it is referred to as partial remission. If tumors shrink to the extent that they can no longer be detected by tests and scans it is referred to as complete remission5.
Secondary breast cancer
Another name for metastatic breast cancer1,5.
Stage IV breast cancer
The most advanced stage of breast cancer – when it has become metastatic1,4,5.
A treatment targeting speciﬁc characteristics of cancer cells to prevent them from growing and dividing3,5.
A type of radiation used for taking pictures or radiotherapy. A mammogram uses low doses of X-rays5.
- National Breast Cancer Foundation Australia (2022). (Advanced or Metastatic) Breast Cancer. Retrieved from https://nbcf.org.au/about-national-breast-cancer-foundation/about-breast-cancer/stages-types-treatment-breast-cancer/stage-4-metastatic-breast-cancer Accessed 27 June, 2022.
- Australian Government Cancer Australia (October 2020) Locally Advanced Breast Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.canceraustralia.gov.au/affected-cancer/cancer-types/breast-cancer/types/locally-advanced-breast-cancer. Accessed 27 June, 2022.
- Breast Cancer Network Australia (2022). Glossary. Retrieved from https://www.bcna.org.au/understanding-breast-cancer/glossary-of-breast-cancer-terms. Accessed 27 June, 2022.
- Breastcancer.org (June 2022) Breast Cancer Stages. Retrieved from https://breastcancer.org/pathology-report/breast-cancer-stages. Accessed 27 June, 2022.
- National Cancer Institute (2022). NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms. Accessed 27 June, 2022.
- Cancer Council Victoria (2022) Chemotherapy: Side effects of chemotherapy. Retrieved from: https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/treatments/treatments-types/chemotherapy/side_effects_of_chemotherapy.html. Accessed 27 June, 2022.
- Cadoo, KA., Gucap, A. & Traina, T A. (2014)(Dove Med Press) 6:123-133. DOI: 10.2147/BCTT.S46725
- Cancer Council Victoria (2022) Chemotherapy: Overview. Retrieved from https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/treatments/treatments-types/chemotherapy/chemotherapy-overview.html. Accessed 27 June, 2022.
This health information is provided for reference only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider.
All decisions regarding patient care must be made with healthcare provider.